HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Momentum can be tricky when it comes to college basketball. It can be tough to establish and just as hard to maintain.
The North Texas men’s and women’s teams had to wait through the first week of league play to finally get momentum on their side in the program’s first season in Conference USA.
Today, the Mean Green will try to hang on to it, complete weekly series sweeps and get to .500 in C-USA play for the first time.
The UNT men will face Charlotte at 6 p.m. in the final game of a two-game road trip, while the UNT women will face Texas-San Antonio at 2 p.m. at the Super Pit.
The UNT women (7-9, 1-2 C-USA) beat Marshall 63-50 at home Wednesday before the UNT men (10-7, 1-2) rolled past the Thundering Herd 80-65 on Thursday in the opener of its trip.
The wins were huge for both squads, which started 0-2 in conference play. That first victory was particularly big for the Mean Green men, who lost their first two C-USA games at home.
“We lost those two games at home and need to make up for it on the road,” UNT forward Colin Voss said. “We have one. Now we need to win on Saturday.”
Reaching that goal won’t be easy for UNT.
Charlotte (11-5, 2-1) is off to a solid start in C-USA play and is coming off an overtime win over Tulsa. The 49ers are 6-2 at home behind a balanced attack that has five players averaging in double figures in scoring and a sixth in backup guard Denzel Ingram who is just short at 9.9 points per game.
Sophomore guard Shawn Lester is averaging 12.3 points per game despite starting just once, while junior guard Pierriá Henry is adding 12.0 points. The pair helped Charlotte knock off UTEP in El Paso, perhaps the most impressive win in a run that has seen the 49ers win three of their last four games.
“They like to run and have a couple of good players,” UNT guard Jordan Williams said. “It will be another tough game.”
UNT heads into that game off one of its better performances of the season.
Williams scored 20 points and Voss added 16 as UNT never trailed. The Mean Green played about 70 percent of the game in a 2-3 zone that was highly effective, and it scored early and often in transition.
“Our defense was really good in the first half,” UNT men’s coach Tony Benford said. “We did a good job of executing our game plan. Offensively we pushed the basketball and got some transition baskets.”
Alzee Williams (12.8 points per game) and Jordan Williams (11.8 points) have excelled in the open court and enter today’s game leading UNT in scoring.
The UNT women were just as effective in their win over Marshall. The Mean Green trailed early but fought its way back into the game and pulled away behind the inside-outside combination of Alexis Hyder and Laura McCoy.
Hyder finished with 18 points while McCoy added 13.
The pair will look to build on that outing against UTSA (10-6, 1-2). The Roadrunners slipped past Charlotte 61-60 in their last outing.
Junior guard Kamara King is averaging 15.6 points per game to lead UTSA.
UNT has four players averaging at least 8.7 points, led by junior forward Briesha Wynn at 10.1 per game.
That balance and a solid performance against Marshall have UNT feeling good about the way it is trending as it heads deeper into conference play. The Mean Green put together what it felt like was one of its more determined efforts in its last game.
“We took five charges,” UNT women’s coach Mike Petersen said. “That is a toughness deal. If you take five charges, you are playing so hard it’s nearly impossible to lose.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.com.